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Abstract

The Cenozoic Colorado Plateau physiographic province overlies multiple Precambrian provinces. Its ∼2-km elevation rim surrounds an ∼1.6-km elevation core that is underlain by thicker crust and lithospheric mantle, with a sharp structural transition ∼100 km concentrically inboard of the physiographic boundary on all but its northeastern margin. The region was uplifted in three episodes: ∼70–50 Ma uplift above sea level driven by flat-slab subduction; ∼38–23 Ma uplift associated with voluminous regional magmatism and slab removal, and less than 20 Ma uplift associated with inboard propagation of basaltic magmatism that tracked convective erosion of the lithospheric core. Neogene uplift helped integrate the Colorado River from the Rockies at 11 Ma to the Gulf of California by ∼5 Ma. The sharp rim-to-core transition defined by geological and geophysical data sets suggests a young transient plateau that is uplifting as it shrinks to merge with surrounding regions of postorogenic extension.

  • ▪  The Colorado Plateau's iconic landscapes were shaped during its 70-million-year, still-enigmatic, tectonic evolution characterized by uplift and erosion.
  • ▪  Uplift of the Colorado Plateau from sea level took place in three episodes, the youngest of which has been ongoing for the past 20 million years.
  • ▪  Tectonism across the Colorado Plateau's nearest plate margin (the base of the plate!) is driving uplift and volcanism and enhancing its rugged landscapes.
  • ▪  The bowl-shaped Colorado Plateau province is defined by ongoing uplift and an inboard sweep of magmatism around its margins.
  • ▪  The keel of the Colorado Plateau is being thinned as the North American plate moves southwest through the underlying asthenosphere.

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2022-05-31
2024-06-15
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